Another lese majeste casualty

15 04 2020

In a sad “end” to a lese majeste case that we don’t recall posting on previously, Prachatai reports that “Nathee (family name withheld), who was on bail pending an appeal against a conviction for expressing opinions about King Rama IX on Facebook, was found dead in a canal on 13 April after succeeding in his third suicide attempt.”

We have searched our files of cases pending and convictions and cannot locate this case. But, then, there have been hundreds and sometimes names change in reporting.

Reportedly mentally ill, Nathee took his life on 12 April.

Aged just 28 when arrested in September 2018, he was accused, charged with lese majeste, and eventually convicted over two Facebook posts poking fun at the dead king:

The first expressed his own opinion of wanting to teach King Rama IX about being enthusiastic about a ‘glass half-full’. The second made a joke out of the license plate number of the late King’s car.

While the first reference did not come from the king, the Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary said that using the term could “cause misunderstanding to people.”

Later, following direction by King Vajiralongkorn, “the charges were changed to violations of the Computer Crime Act and Article 116 of the Criminal Code on sedition.”

In December, 2019, Nathee was found guilty of computer crimes and received 3 years in prison, reduced to 2 years for “useful testimony.”

His defense, that he was mentally ill and “incapable of controlling himself and unaware that he was violating the law” made no impact on the royalist criminal court.

The sedition charge was rejected “as Nathee’s act did not cause any unrest.” However, the ruling on computer crimes was:

[He] was guilty of uploading data which is an offence related to national security. The posts that were made public were likely to cause damage to the institution of the monarchy which is highly respected by the people, and amounted an offence against national security.

Natthee’s representatives appealed and he was on bail pending an appeal when he died.

Before the court, Nathee stated he was bipolar and “claimed that he would be in a normal state of mind until he surfed the net. He would then become angry and uncontrollable, feeling that his nervous system was connected to the internet signal.” He added that “he thought of himself as a Buddha and that his body was dominated by an extra-terrestrial being.”

In support, the court was told that “doctors had diagnosed Nathee with a mental disorder and that treatment would take a long time. His father also testified that Nathee had been under treatment with Decha Hospital since before he committed the offence.”

Nathee was not the first person with mental illness charged or convicted under laws used to “protect” the monarchy.

PPT can think of several other cases. In mid-2012, Thitinant Kaewchantranont was accused of lese majeste and convicted on 21 May 2014. Tanet Nonthakot was arrested on 2 July 2014 and accused of lese majeste, and convicted on 25 June 2015. In Chiang Rai, on 6 August 2015, Samak Panthe, a 48 year-old was dragged off to jail. In a Prachatai report, it was revealed that on 20 April 2016 military prosecutors have indicted Sao {real name withheld] on lese majeste charges.

Lese majeste and the mentally unstable

23 04 2016

Back in August 2015, it was reported that a man named Sao (surname withheld due to privacy concerns) was accused of making false claims about royal property. He was accused of lese majeste. At the time it was said that he had been sent to a psychiatric hospital following three months of pre-charge detention.

The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights report that on 20 August 2015 Sao was sent to Galya Rajanagarindra Institute. No lese majeste case had been filed with prosecutors because the suspect was thought to be suffering from mental illness and needs to be treated at the psychiatric hospital.

Sao, from Chiang Rai and of the Thai Lue ethnic group, is said to have committed lese majeste when, on 13 March 2015, he submitted a complaint that Thaksin Shinawatra had allocated the king’s property inappropriately. He was summoned to hear the accusation in late May and held in custody in prison from 28 May to 19 August 2015.

In a recent Prachatai report, it is revealed that on 20 April 2016 military prosecutors have indicted Sao and he is charged with lese majeste.

Earlier, on 26 January 2016, the TLHR had “submitted a letter to the authorities, suggesting that the suspect should not be indicted due to his psychosis as Sao still claims that he has telepathic powers and maintains that his claims about the King’s property are true.” This was ignored because state psychiatrists ruled otherwise. The report states that “military prosecutors decided to indict Sao after psychiatrists from Galya Rajanagarindra Institute in Bangkok concluded in December 2015 that Sao is fit to stand on trial in a military court after he was sent to the Institute for an examination of his mental illness.”

He is “accused by the Criminal Division for Political Office Holders of the Supreme Court of making false claims about the monarchy’s property.”

However, the Military Court did grant bail.

This is not the first case of someone suffering a mental illness being charged with lese majeste. PPT can think of two other recent cases. Prachatai states that “because of the great sensitivity surrounding cases related to the Thai monarchy, the court usually refrains from dismissing the charges.” It is more than this. In fact, the deeply royalist institutions of the courts and military tend to consider everyone accused of lese majeste as somehow non-Thai and “mad” in the sense that they fall outside the rules established by the power elite.

Lese majeste lies, nonsense and repression

7 02 2016

The lese majeste conviction train has been traveling at a speed that makes everything else the military junta does seem like extra-slow motion. We use this post to catch up on some recent lese majeste stories.

At Prachatai: lese majeste lunacy is reported, yet it is unclear who is suffering mental illness. According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights “the military Judge Advocate General’s office has scheduled a hearing on 20 April 2016, when military prosecutors will decide whether to indict Sao (surname withheld due to privacy concerns) under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law.

Sao, “who claims that he has telepathic powers to communicate with Thaksin Shinawatra,” was assessed by psychiatrists from the Galya Rajanagarindra Institute and they concluded that” Sao is fit to stand on trial in a military court…”.

It is bizarre that trained psychiatrists would come to such conclusions. Perhaps they suffer some kind of royalist psychosis.

In another story of lese majeste oddities, we note that Pavin Chachavalpongpun has a remarkable ability to get under the skin of the royalists who currently rule over Thailand. Almost everything he writes gets a high-level response and royalists are sometimes showing up when he speaks to provide usually crude responses to his views, if they don’t get to shout him down.

Usually for op-eds in foreign newspapers, Thailand’s ambassadors are tasked with responding with cliched royalisms, usually bending and breaking the truth. However, in responding to a recent Japan Times op-ed by Pavin, Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs does him the honor of having Sek Wannamethee, Director-General of its Department of Information respond.

Sek says he wants “to clarify some points” but actually muddies and muddles the royal waters.

His first attempt to alter history is to assert that “the monarchy has been and always remains above politics.” By now, almost everyone with even a smidgen of interest in Thailand knows this is a steaming pile of horse manure.

His second to alter history is to assert that “the main purpose of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) [he means the junta] to take control of national administration were to provide a cooling-off period for all sides, and to prevent further violence, restore stability, as well as to put the country back on track toward full democracy.”

This is clearly nonsense and a lie that the junta and its flunkies trot out to in the face of facts that say something quite different.

To assert that there is no “association between the monarchy and the operation of the [junta] is completely misleading and totally out of context,” is to deny the junta’s own claims about its raison d’etre. It proclaims its loyalty, it capacity to “protect” the monarchy and Prem Tinsulanonda supports the junta for its loyalty. It is clear that the military is hoping to manage succession.

His next claim, that “the lese majeste law is part of Thailand’s Criminal Code, giving protection to the rights or reputations of the king, the queen, the heir apparent, or the regent in a similar way libel law does for commoners” is one repeatedly made. It is repeatedly denied by academics and activists. For a start, the law has been applied far more widely than the persons mentioned. That’s a fact. When was the last time that libel saw a person sentenced to 60 years in jail?

To argues that the law “is not aimed at curbing people’s rights to freedom of expression nor the legitimate exercise of academic freedom, including debates about the monarchy as an institution” is simply a lie.

In another lie, when he denies that “the current government has tightened up its measures against lese majeste charges as the cases become more politicized is an overstatement of the current situation.” Again, its a fact. Mammoth jail sentences, scores of cases and military courts say Sek’s a propagandist.

Some international bodies do recognize the arbitrariness and politicized nature of lese majeste. A Prachatai report tells us that the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention “has requested that Thailand immediately release lèse-majesté detainee Pornthip Munkong aka Golf and award her compensation for the arbitrary detention she has been subjected to…”. Apparently, this opinion was adopted on 2 December 2015, arguing that Pornthip’s

… detention is arbitrary because it contravenes Articles 9 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Articles 9(3) and 19(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Thailand is a state party to the ICCPR. The referenced provisions guarantee the fundamental right to liberty, the right to a fair trial, and the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

PPT suggests that almost all lese majeste incarcerations fall into this category.

Dare we say it, but military prosecutors have shown some sense on lese majeste. For the first time, “have dismissed lèse majesté charges against three suspects accused of defaming the Thai monarchy on Facebook.”

The Judge Advocate General’s Office “decided not indict Jaruwan E., 26, Anon, 22, and Chat, 20, accused of using a Facebook page under the name of Jaruwan to defame the King.” Police had charged them with lese majeste  and computer crimes in mid-November 2014. They were imprisoned for almost three months.

Jaruwan denied all charges and claimed an unhappy suitor was responsible for the Facebook account. It seems the prosecutors have finally agreed.

3-5 new lese majeste cases

23 08 2015

Prachatai has two reports of three, maybe five, new lese majeste cases.

The first involves a man accused of “making false claims about the King’s property…”. He has been “sent to a psychiatric hospital after three months of pre-charge detention.”

The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights report that on 20 August 2015, “Sao (surname withheld due to privacy concerns), a suspect under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, [was sent]… to Galya Rajanagarindra Institute in Bangkok…”. No case file on the suspect has been sent to prosecutors “because the suspect seems to be suffering from mental illness and needs to be treated at the psychiatric hospital…”.

Sao, from the a Thai Lue ethnic group and from Chiang Rai, is said to be “accused by the Criminal Division for Political Office Holders of the Supreme Court of making false claims about the monarchy’s property.” On 13 March 2015, he is said to have submitted a “complaint which stated that … Thaksin Shinawatra, misallocated the property of the King. He claimed that he was in charge of managing 7 billion baht (196 million USD).”

Sao was summoned “to hear the accusation in late May and held him in custody at the Remand Prison from 28 May to 19 August 2015.”

He is reported to have a history of mental illness. Prachatai states: “In the past, there have been many lèse majesté suspects with records of mental illness. However, this is the first time that the authorities have sent a lèse majesté suspect who is reportedly suffering from mental illness to a psychiatric hospital before the indictment.”

The second case involves two men who appear better charged under fraud laws rather than lese majeste, but this is royalist Thailand….

The police arrested the two, accusing them of “making false claims about the monarchy for financial gain.” (Plenty of staunch royalists do the same, albeit in more sophisticated ways.)

Khaosod reports that Kittiphop Sitthirat, 23, and Wiset Phutthasa, 30, made “false claims about the monarchy, falsifying public documents, fraud, and impersonating officers from the Bureau of the Royal Household.” The Kamphaeng Phet provincial court issued arrest warrants on or around 20 August 2015.

The two suspects are said to have cooperated with two others “to claim that they belonged to the … aristocracy [and were] related to the Royal family with the rank of Mom Luang (M.L.) and were working for the Bureau of the Royal Household.” Kittiphop and Wiset are alleged to have “claimed to the head of the Pa Sai Ngam Buddhist Monastery of Kamphaeng Phet Province [and] that they could invite members of the Royal family to participate in religious events at the temple, but needed 100,000 baht for expenses.”

Alleged accomplice Atsadaphon Sitthirat, 45, “who had already been arrested before the two, presented fake letters and documents from the secretariat of the Bureau of the Royal Household to support the false claims of the two lèse majesté suspects. Another accomplice to the alleged crime, however, is still at large.”

Police imply that the local elite is hopping mad because the alleged fraudsters were “claiming that they were collecting funds to build a monastery in order to trick high-ranking public servants and many others to donate money to them. The suspects reportedly collected about a million baht from this.”

Both Kittiphop and Wiset denied all charges.

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